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Sublime weather to finish UK half-term holidays

Snow stays in tip top condition despite the warmer weather

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Martin Hemsley | Meribel Reporter | Published: 22 Feb 2019


Sublime weather to finish UK half-term holidays

All week the weather here in Méribel has been a skier's dream; chilly nights followed by gorgeous sunny days with clear blue skies and  unseasonably warm temperatures.

Sometimes February provides big stormy weather fronts, just like last winter, but not so this year. I'm sure you've heard of the film Groundhog Day from the 1990s - you get the picture at the moment with the weather and snow conditions. It's just fabulous.

Yes, the temperatures are slightly above the normal for this time of year. However we don't yet have the very strong high sunshine we experience in late March and April. In other words, there has been some softening on the lower pistes on south and west-facing aspects, but nothing like the thick heavy slush experienced during spring. The snow conditions are remaining very good on the vast majority of the mountain thanks to the generous snowfalls late in Jan and early Feb, and also the chilly air temperatures then. The official snow depths are at 95cm at 1,450m, and a healthy 160cm at 2,700m. There are 63 pistes open out of 64, and the avalanche risk is at a rating of 2/5.

We are coming to the end of the main British school holiday period, however do note that we are almost halfway through the four week French holidays. At the moment we have the main Parisian region and the local area all on holiday. The snow conditions are staying surprisingly good considering the amount of skiers and snowboarders enjoying the mountain, and we've had no decent snowfall for almost two weeks now. The chilly night temperatures are helping the pistes recover along, with excellent snow grooming by the bashers.

On the whole the lift queues are manageable, especially once you have made it up the mountain. However, down at Chaudanne some of the queues have grown at times, mainly due to ski school lessons. There are of course several different ski schools, most of which start their lessons at 09:15, so still expect queues to grow at that time. The largest of the schools, the ESF (Ecole de Ski Francais) have two other lesson start times, where my colleagues will be leading their clients to the lifts at 12:30 and at 14:15. So if you are coming to resort over the next two weeks, it might be worth taking a note of these times. Likewise, at the other end of the lessons, there will be many groups heading back down the mountain, just like a version of afternoon rush hour in the cities. The times to look out for then would be around 11:45, 13:45 and finally at 16:45. But again, on the whole, the investment that the resort has made over the years with efficient ski lifts is paying off.

I've been lucky enough to ski all of this week with John and Gilly, and the Buckroyds. All of whom are very capable skiers, especially Ella who is a BASI Level 2 qualified ski instructor. Due to this we've been moving around Méribel and the rest of the 3 Valleys quite swiftly, sniffing out the good snow, finding new areas that they haven't skied before, and at times challenging ourselves with steeper terrain. My goal has been to try and find good snow, which often means finding north facing pistes and off-piste. Some examples of this have been the excellent Mont Vallon area and underneath the Cote Brune chairlift, which are both in Méribel - Courchevel Moriond (once known as 1650), and the Peclet area over in Val Thorens.

The highlight of the week was taking them down the iconic black piste above Courchevel 1850, called the Grand Couloir, also north facing. This piste has quite an intimidating entrance along the ridge, which has a steep drop off on both sides. We spoke about, and practised, how we could use our technique and tactics to help us in these environments. Diagonal sideslipping and plenty of scrapping proved particularly useful. We all stopped for a quick refreshment (and nervous pee as Andy pointed out) before heading up the Courchevel cable car to the entrance to the piste. Everyone put their game face on, it all got quite serious, and off we went. How did it go? Amazingly, and I couldn't have been happier for them. They all did really well as you can see in the group photo at the bottom. Well done team. The weather forecast is indicating that this glorious weather is due to continue for some time. So if you are coming out on holiday over the next few days, don't forget to bring your sunnies and sun cream.

Read more from our reporter Martin on his website.